Poison Study: A Review

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Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
MIRA Books, 409 pgs, 2005

After an undulating first half, buoyed only by a brisk pace of cliff-hangers, Poison Study trips over its own feet, tumbles into a ditch, and promptly dies. Latent magical ability, court intrigue, and assassins, mixed with the threat of international conflict and ardor yield an intriguing premise. So what happened?

At the outset Yelena is dragged from the dungeons and brought before Valek, Ixia’s spymaster. Her choice is simple: mount the gallows or become Commander Ambrose’s food taster, a decadent but traditionally short-lived position in the assassination prone kingdom. She accepts and becomes apprentice to Valek, a sexy man with black ringlets.

Despite the often heavy-handed dialogue I found myself propelled through the first 170 pages. Yelena memorizes properties of countless poisons, makes fast friends, and outwits two squadrons of highly-trained soldiers. Snyder performs adequately here, introducing plot elements and characters with relative ease. It is when story threads collide that she falters. Instead of successful conclusions, characters appear from the ether and make illogical decisions that hold little to no consequence.

Spoilers. Proceed at your own risk. Spoilers.

Several scenes have weighed heavily on me since finishing Poison Study, scenes that warranted a guffaw, or “come on,” or “are you kidding me?” Grab some popcorn and your comfiest blanket. Cozy on up and take note of what to avoid in your next novel.

Exposition Dream Sequences.

The first full-on-dream, not wandering of the mind daydream, but dream occurs around page 280, roughly three-quarters of the way through the novel. While dozing on duty (thanks to copious amounts of wine she’s had to taste for the Commander) Yelena learns Commander Ambrose’s secret. In her drunken stupor she inexplicably slips into his mind… or has a vision of the past (I’m honestly not sure) and discovers that which fuels his vengeance on magicians. When she comes to, she accepts this wholesale. Not “that’s weird,” or “clearly, this can’t be right,” just “this is absolutely what happened and I can’t believe no one saw it before”.

If you’re going to divulge secrets, or any potentially relevant character information, in a dream then, for the love of god, first establish that dreams in your world can hold unquestionable truth before the halfway point of your book. I once had a dream that I chased orcs through army barracks in the desert. I slashed my way through horde after horde but ultimately failed to stop the launching of the nuke. When I woke up in the morning I didn’t grab the morning paper expecting to read about a mushroom cloud over Kansas. At the very least tell me that Yelena was unsure. When she thought about it, it made sense, but how could she prove it, and even if she could would it matter? Maybe she decides to accept the revelation in lieu of a better explanation. But tell me. Otherwise, I now think Yelena is supremely gullible and/or far less intelligent that I previously assumed.

After this reprisal of unnecessary brevity it may not surprise you to learn that this dream-revelation took place in over less than a page. What may surprise you is that, of the following two examples, the longest barely spills over to a second page.

The World’s Fastest Betrayal… Wait… No, sorry… Time to Sacrifice.

In under a page Yelena’s former friend and castle chef, Rand, lures her into a trap in the woods, confesses his betrayal, reveals his motivations and employer, and tells of remorse all before sacrificing himself to save her. Surprise, it’s Rand, trudged up from the depths to expediently wrap up his arc.

Mogkan

Have you ever found yourself, approaching the end of a book, hoping a new character will be introduced that is secretly behind everything? No? You know, like when it delegitimizes everything menacing about the bad guy. No? I haven’t either. Luckily for me, Snyder produced Mogkan—or Kangom, because when a character is doomed to fail make sure there name is an anagram. A man who, for the last sixteen years, has propped up the man we previously assumed to be the main threat and antagonist. My favorite thing about this character that I totally had time get to know and learn to hate, is that he is undone by literally one sentence uttered by our heroine. Astoundingly, all you have to do undermine a decade and a half partnership is to ask if one partner if they really trust the other. Fascinating!

Certainly, these examples are not the only offenders—a certain foreign magician interrupting an acrobatic routine comes to mind. That said, I’d prefer not to reiterate points I’ve already made. Especially considering they are exacerbations of flaws I stated off the bat.

For all my petulance I enjoyed myself (I didn’t finish the book out of masochistic tendencies or purely for spite). Perhaps—no, that is why I care so much. It was infuriating to watch Snyder inhabit Charlie Brown’s shoes and miss that damn football again and again.

I would never advise someone to steer clear of a novel (unless its Heart of Darkness). You may very well enjoy yourself. I hope you do. And if you’ve already journeyed to Ixia and are an avowed fan maybe you can enlighten me on what I’m missing. I’m all ears.

Rating: 2 out of 5 ruined sex scences
Up next: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

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Lincoln in the Bardo: A Review

20170917_191128Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Random House, 343 pgs, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review. Shall we jump back in?

In December of last year I was introduced to George Saunders by a friend’s girlfriend. The best place to start? Pastoralia, I was told. I did the reasonable thing and ordered it not long after. Boy, did I eat it up.

When I learned Lincoln in the Bardo, Saunders’ first novel, was due out I was overjoyed. I remember it was released back on Valentine’s Day. After a romantic dinner, my girlfriend and I walked to our local book store and gifted each other a book. A perfect end to a perfect night. I received Bardo (barely beating out 4, 3, 2, 1 by Paul Auster—another finalist for the Man Booker Prize). She, on the other hand, knew exactly what she wanted: Brandon Sanderson’s Arcanum Unbounded. (Speaking of, who’s excited for Oathbringer this November?)

Despite my anticipation, it took me two months to work up the courage to tackle Bardo. The book was on everyone’s must read lists. Even the audiobook drew considerable attention for its star-studded cast. What can I say? Of course I was intimidated. What if I’m let down? I thought. What if Saunder’s majesty was fleeting, was manifested in Pastoralia and can not ever be replicated?

When I finally got my cracked my copy open past the autographed title page (hell yeah!) I was confronted with this:

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Look at all that white space.

This format continues throughout the novel. Given this, it reads fast, very fast, and thanks to its lack of textual density (only in this superficial sense) it feels more like a script or a play. That you don’t notice the lack of set-dressing common to prose is perhaps the strongest aspect of the novel. It is a master class of dialogue and exposition in narrative.

The launching point of Lincoln in the Bardo is the premature death of Willie Lincoln, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s third son. Willie’s soul has not moved on to the afterlife. Instead, he awakens in the graveyard and rise from his coffin to find himself in the Bardo—a Buddhist concept that approximates Catholic purgatory. Not exactly a premise that I expected to evoke the wit, candor, and whimsy I savored in Saunders’ short stories.

Happily, humor abounds; most obviously in ghost’s appearances, determined by both their manner of death and their preoccupations in life. Take for example Hans Vollman who tragically died at work the day he intended to do what he most desired: to consummate his marriage. In the Bardo, he wanders around with an absurdly large, erect penis that comically slaps around, causes a distraction for fellow ghosts, and gets in his own way.

All of this is delivered with what I have come to call Saunders Poignancy. He utilizes humor flawlessly, drawing the audience in for a fun ride, lulling them into a sense of safety, and then BLAM! In the span of a few sentences he switches to the dramatic and forces us to confront the repercussions of the previous pages. Kudos to the man who can craft characters so well that a man defined by his swollen penis can cause me to grieve and appreciate this life.

If you have a sense of humor read this book. If you have any interest in writing read this book. If you have a heart read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 matterlightblooming phenomenons
Up next: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

GoT 7.4 The Spoils of War: A Review

Warning. Everything in this post is a spoiler.

Well, Sunday’s episode pushed us over the halfway mark. In only three weeks Game of Thrones will conclude its seventh season and we will again enter The Long Night. If the remaining episodes can somehow build on The Spoils of War we’ll have have more than enough hype to carry us through.

The episode opens with A Song of Ice and Fire’s greatest character, Bran. He receives the loathsome Littlefinger, whom in his conniving, manipulative way thinks it prudent to gift a clearly damaged child the weapon that almost ended his life. I feel no shame in confessing that I hoped Bran would take said gift, flip it around, and shank the living tar out of Littlefinger. Instead, Bran decides to drag out the process of Littlefinger’s shame and downfall, turning his own words against him (“chaos is a ladder”), causing his mind to splinter into a million pieces.

We are, thankfully, at a point where Littlefinger’s demise is imminent. Just one week after instructing Sansa to “fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind” he comes face to face with a character that is one step shy of omniscient. So much for being one step ahead of everyone chap. With the caveat that this show is known for turning assured situations on their head, I look forward to watching Littlefinger’s plans unravel over the next three weeks.

Now more than ever we must take care to watch everything Bran does. As the three-eyed raven he has a plan. Losing his entire self north of the wall, means his sole purpose will be directed to defeating the White Walkers. Every move he makes from here on out, however subtle, will be carefully calculated, will subtly shifts pawns into place; like giving Arya the catspaw’s Valyrian steel dagger.

Back in episode 7.1, Dragonstone, this very same dagger is highlighted in the book Sam ‘borrows’ from the restricted section. Last week I said—referring to Davos almost revealing Jon’s death—that when things/events/questions are mentioned twice they move from coincidental to consequential.

In The Spoils of War, Bran asks Littlefinger if he knows who its owner was. The pertinent passage from Sam’s book refers to the Targaryens. It is not a stretch to think this dagger belonged to a Targaryen we know. But if so, who? In the show only three Targaryens other than Daenerys have had a reasonable amount of screentime or exposition: Aemon Targaryen, Maester at the Wall; Aegon Targaryen, the first Targaryen King of Westeros; and Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother and Jon Snow’s father. Of these few the likely answer, what with the lingering revelation of Jon Snow’s parentage, is Rhaegar. If this turns out to be true the greater question is, why does it matter and what bearing does it have on the story? Will Arya use it as effectively as she did in her sparring with Brienne?

Not pictured: Littlefinger shitting himself.

On Dragonstone, Daenerys prevents Jon from leaving. She does, however, perform an about face when shown convenient, ancient cave carvings. For a woman that doesn’t believe Jon and Davos at their word about White Walkers (and rightly so) she seems far too willing to believe in evidence of their existence provided courtesy of another near-mythical species.

Finally, this week, the battle! Field of Fire 2.0, or should we call it Fields of Gold, is in immediate contention for the best Game of Thrones battle. Tell me that when Drogon appears over the grassy hills chills didn’t run up your spine. Lie to me and say you didn’t screech in giddy anticipation as Daenerys and the Dothraki bore down on the Lannisters. I mean, we got a dragon in full combat! We have never been so blessed.

 

Objectively, the coolest thing ever.

Brief moments in other battles, such as Jon shattering a White Walker with Longclaw, or the charge during Battle of the Bastards, were brilliant but none have been able to sustain suspense and tension for long. Until this week. In the span of ten minutes I went from rooting for the Dothraki and Daenerys, to feeling the fear of the Lannister foot soldiers, to being absorbed in Bronn’s dash for his life, to cheering for Bronn’s cleverness, to cursing Bronn’s name for nearly killing Drogon, to sympathizing with Tyrion, to praying for Jaime. My emotions were set aflame like the cargo train.

We have dragons to thank for this never-ending sense of awe and unease. The destruction they bring is both exhilarating and terrifying. Now imagine what all three dragons could do if unleashed. The Night King better get to work on that Ice Dragon or he’s screwed.

Jaime attempts to end Daenerys’ conquest and prevent history from repeating itself.

The Spoils of War ends with Jaime sinking into a pond that has conveniently transformed into an ocean. I’m have no doubt he is alive; Bronn, who is not wearing armor, will save him. In the words of a friend “full plate armor sinks, but plot armor floats”.

Questions and Daydream Material for Episode 5:

Here’s the trailer for Eastwatch.

  • What will become of Jaime?
  • Dany threatens to murder those who will not bend the knee. Is she stepping  closer to the madness that plagued her father? Will Tyrion and Varys be able to convince her to instead take the path of prudence, justice, and mercy?
  • Jon gets up close and personal with Drogon. Perhaps he tries to leave Dragonstone but is prevented by the return of Daenerys.
  • Bran sends word to Jon about the White Walker’s progress south. Will the final two episodes build to an epic confrontation between the armies of the living and dead?

GoT 7.3, The Queen’s Justice: A Review

Spoilers the size of Balerion the Dread lie ahead. Proceed with caution.

It’s safe to say The Queen’s Justice is the best episode so far of Season 7. Game of Thrones has increased the pace in recent weeks, and not entirely because Euron seems to have stolen Littlefinger’s quantum teleporter. Even as a dialogue driven episode, reminiscent of early seasons, the extended episode length allowed for the sieges of both Casterly Rock and Highgarden. What’s more, the increased budget gave us a shot of Drogon flying over Jon, screeching “you’re a Targ, Jon Snow.”

The episode opens with a family reunion, Jon Snow finally gets to meet his Aunt Dany. And it’s sweet, she asks him to be a good boy and bend the knee. But Jon’s been listening to Tormund—”you can never be a kneeler again”—and refuses Daenerys’ demands to come under her rule. After a fair amount of dick-measuring Jon comes away as the initial victor, granted leave to mine dragonglass.

Two events in particular on Dragonstone stood out:

  • While joining the ranks of clifftop brooders, Melisandre informs Varys she must return to Westeros one more time and “die in this strange country, just like you.” In the past I’ve advised the questioning her predictions, but this is stated so blatantly I believe it deserves an exception.
  • Jon’s resurrection was mentioned twice. Davos almost spills the beans before Jon has even spoken a word to Daenerys & Co. This strange remark did not go unnoticed; Daenerys later questions Tyrion about the “knife to the heart”. As a general rule of thumb if something is mentioned twice, explicitly, in one episode it will be a big deal going forward. My go-for-broke theory: Daenerys and Jon will get it on. Dany will see the stab wounds and this will lend credence to his concerns about the Night King and army of the dead.

Speaking of potential revelations concerning Jon, Bran has returned to Winterfell! Or, well, part of him has. Plugging into weirwood.net has messed him up. Witnessing all of the past and the horrors that come along with it would do a number on anyone, let alone a child. Luckily he’s home after years on the run and around his family. If anything can bring him out of his Seer Funk it’s that. I desperately hope Bran is strong enough to retain some of his humanity. As my favorite character I’d rather not watch him descend into despondence and madness after fulfilling what appears to be his main purpose— revealing Jon’s heritage.

In Oldtown, Sam’s treatment of Ser Jorah was successful. Jorah no longer looks like the dried out bottom of a lake. Imagine that, all the maesters had to do to cure greyscale was follow the instructions. Archmaester Ebrose recognizes Sam’s achievement for the miracle it is and rewards him by not booting him from the Citadel and then tasks Sam to transcribe old, falling apart books. Could some of these books have come from the restricted section Sam so desperately wants access to? What goodies and secrets lie in those ancient pages?

I think Sam will discover that Valyrian steel, like dragonglass, can kill the Others. Jon found this out in Season 5 with Longclaw, but he’s the only one who knows, and very well may have thought it was a fluke. He clearly hasn’t mentioned it since, only calling for the mining of dragonglass. This could be the plot reason behind Sam’s theft of Heartsbane, the Tarly’s Valyrian Steel sword. After uncovering the truth he will send word to Jon. It will then be up to Jon to convince the Lords to put their most prized possessions to use.

Across the continent, Euron, who is still the worst, delivers the remaining Dornish women to Cersei and then throws some more sex jokes at Jaime. What a douche. Cersei takes his gifts and reminds us all why she is a force to be reckoned with. No one deserves Ellaria’s fate. If Cersei could eat the souls of her enemies she would.

After getting off on torture Cersei makes an outlandish promise to Tycho Nestoris, emissary of the Iron Bank, promising to pay off all crown debts in a fortnight. I audibly scoffed at the television when she proposed this. The Iron Bank is not an entity you make false promises too. I thought that, for sure, in a few weeks this would result in the death of Cersei. And here lies the main takeaway of this week. Never, ever, ever underestimate the Lannisters. When your back is turned they’ll pull an old switcheroo, trash the remainder of your fleet, and leave you with a defensible, but worthless castle.

As one of the last strongholds to be unveiled I was super excited to see the show’s rendering of Casterly Rock. I anticipated something on the scale of the Eyrie. Casterly Rock is unbeatable, placed atop a small mountain, with a limited approach, and backed up against the sea. It appears budget concerns may have been to blame. I recently obtained this highly classified transcript from a source, planted deep in the Game of Thrones empire. 

“Ser, Dan. Ser Dan,” said the accountant, acknowledging the Lords Paramount of GoT.

“Ah, Bertrand.” Benioff looked up from his Euron action figure. The figure had a drawstring and preprogrammed innuendos and strangely, lacked a shirt.  “Listen, we need more money. It’s been brought to our attention that we forgot about the direwolves. We’ll have to add them in post. Oh, and it turns out we will need to use Casterly Rock and Highgarden after all. “

“More? Sers. I’m afraid that won’t be, er, I don’t think that’s possible.” He did the calculation. “You’ll have to lose at least one dragon shot per episode.”

“Lose dragons. That doesn’t sound right. Not worth it, is it Ser Dan?”

“It is not Ser Dan.”

And so ended the Great Direwolf Debate of 2017. What should Casterly Rock have looked like? Here’s a painting that perfectly encapsulates every description of the Rock by Ted Nesmith. Now that looks impregnable.

In the final minutes of the episode we see the switcheroo play out. When Highgarden is revealed as the true prize we realize Cersei is not always as dumb as she looks. I find it hard to believe the Tyrell’s have amassed enough wealth to pay off an entire continent’s debt over the last twenty years yet not have enough to pay a standing army to protect their home, but I’ll try and not dwell on it.

Olenna Tyrell proved  you don’t have to go out in with your head crushed, or surprised in the loo by your son to have a memorable death. You can just throw back some poison wine, confess your hatred for Joffrey (who as she says, was truly a cunt), and die watching the realization of your wickedness dawn on the face of your enemy. RIP Olenna.

Week Long Daydream Material 

The next episode is called The Spoils of War . Here’s the trailer.

  • Cersei has been winning too much. Something will finally go against her. It looks like the Tyrell gold will be stolen. What ever will she do then, when faced with the wrath of the Iron Bank.
  • My eyes may deceive me but I’m pretty sure in the last shot I can see the stark silver white of Dany’s hair.
  • We see Arya on a hill, looking at Winterfell. Will she arrive this episode?
  • Littlefinger has his Valyrian dagger. Is he planning to ruin everything? God dammit Littlefinger, just die already and leave me alone.
  • Theon looks to be back, pulling his boat to shore with some Iron Islanders. Has he landed on the mainland or back on Dragonstone?
  • Brienne swings her sword in what appears to be an execution. She is probably just practicing with Pod and its a misdirection. I choose to dream, however, that someone finally gives Littlefinger what he deserves.
  • Sansa looks upset. Papers, or letters, are spread before her. Has Maester Wolkan discovered something in Maester Luwin’s records. Perhaps regarding Littlefinger’s meddling with Jon and Lysa Arryn?

GoT 7.2 Stormborn: A Review

Pre-episode Predictions

  • Arya will reunite with Nymeria and it will be sooo sweet! Will her vengeance drive her south or will Nymeria remind her of family and Starks and turn her north?
  • Jon learns of his parentage from Littlefinger and then for some reason chokes him a la Ned in the crypts.
  • Bronze Yohn goes on about Filthy Targs but is reigned in by some means by the end of the episode and plans to ally with Dany begin
  • There will be wonderful banter at Daenerys’ war table. There is a lot of ground for tension. Tyrion could call out Ellaria. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of this. With so few episodes left I think the action will increase and the private arguing, backroom politicking will decrease.
  • It’s about time for an epic naval battle. Looks to be between Greyjoys. Hopefully Theon stabs Euron. A boy can dream.

Stormborn Discussion

Wow. My predictions were surprisingly accurate. Granted, my view of Theon’s mental state just a tad too idyllic and I was way off on Littlefinger’s intentions. Still, I’m going to revel in my glory and relish my Seer status until next week. I’m certain I’ll never be so close again.

Episode 2 of Game of Thrones was mediocre, and I say that with a torn heart. Initially, I was sour on Stormborn but two days of space has restored calm and my hype-meter is at full steam once more. To begin, let’s get my one qualm out of the way. If you’ve already had your daily dose of cynicism scroll down to the divide and dive straight into the exciting things.

Euron Greyjoy is atrocious. I do not understand the fascination with his character. Have we been so conditioned by the show’s poor handling of the Greyjoys, from season four on, that anything not a dog turd is amazing? Please tell me people remember “twenty good men”? And the Kingsmoot, or lack thereof?

Show-Euron is a caricature, an over-the-top villain, that sprang from nowhere to advance the plot in a cheap, unearned way. Last season he arrived on cue, after murdering Balon, at the Kingsmoot. As a mash-up of book-Victarion and book-Euron there was plenty of material to draw on (we could have had Dragonbinder!). Instead we got dick jokes and man not fit to rule over a pebble, let alone the Iron Islands. Case in point: Yara and Theon steal his entire fleet. Really? We’re supposed to believe the most feared pirate in the world employs crews so easily overrun? Even more absurd, he orders the construction of a brand new fleet, in record time, which somehow is now the greatest armada in the world.

In a show lauded for its writing and portrayal of intricate political maneuverings does this hold up to scrutiny? No. As a result Euron’s victory Sunday night was hollow. That said Euron is fun, and the farther we get into Season 7 I’m finding it hard to hate him. Especially since he successfully destroyed the Sand Snakes and leaping onto a boat in chainmail (as Victarion would) while wielding an axe was thrilling. If he continues to be straight evil and take be more straight evil as book Euron I’m all in.


On to the good stuff! Despite what you just read, or skipped, I enjoyed the episode. There was a lot more for it than against it. For starters, Nymeria! Just look, look at her gloriousness! She’s massive.

Curse the writer who chose to make her leave. But rest assured, she will most certainly be back. As GRRM put it himself “you don’t hang a giant wolf pack on the wall unless you intend to use it.”

Arya got to spend this episode on memory lane. Thanks to another reunion with fan favorite and lovable Hot Pie, Arya learned that Winterfell is no longer under the control of the Dastardly Bolton’s. It seems that human interaction, courtesy of Ed Sheeran and Hot Pie, has warmed her heart. News of her family, a hot pie from Hot Pie, and some ale has turned her from her mission of vengeance and instead heads north.

Meanwhile, Bran is presumably going to head south from the Wall. That two Starks are converging on the rest of their family and their ancestral home should give us pause. In the past, Stark family get-togethers haven’t gone so well. The last time Arya was this close to family and happiness she arrived at the Twins on the night of the Red Wedding. Not the best track record. Still, discounting Jon, who’s on his way to pick up a wife (only half joking) we have the potential for a three-Stark meetup, converging on Queen Sansa in Winterfell.

Queen Sansa… Folks, I’m downright thrilled that she is the effective Queen in the North during Jon’s absence. It’s been a pet theory of mine for a long time and I’m glad to be vindicated if only slightly. I’ve been right too often these first two episodes. That means the story is predictable, and that means the tables are about to turn. Something big, something terrible will likely happen in the next several weeks.

Another Queen, Daenerys, namesake of the episode, holds the strangest war council in Westeros, replete with a eunuch, a wanted patricidal dwarf, the illegitimate rulers of Dorne, and the sassiest Grandma around. There’s a lot of tension and thankfully some dirt is aired rather than being swept under the rug. Tyrion confronts Ellaria about murdering his niece, Dany questions Varys’ loyalty, and when Mel arrives her loyalty and motives are finally questioned. This plotline ended with a lot of questions. Especially after Euron destroyed a good chunk of Dany’s fleet. We’ll have to wait til Sunday to find out the full ramifications of this but I think its safe to say that Jon will find himself on more even footing now that her position is a slightly more precarious.

Watching Cersei, in her best Trump impression, incite the few lords loyal to her into action against foreigners, was almost as bad as having to look at sniveling, ‘Bringin Shit Back from the Dead’ Qyburn. I will not stand for ‘Once-Maester’ Qyburn’s hijinx (just cause you’ve been studying your history doesn’t mean you have the right to bring down one of Dany’s dragons the way Meraxes was during the First Dornish War). Thanks to him the Lannister’s, for the first time this season, don’t look like they’ll be so easily raked over the coals and suddenly Field of Fire 2.0 just got that much more intense.

Finally, let’s discuss Samwell, the king of montages and transitions. While many find it disgusting I find his shit-capades kind of hilarious and hope this trend continues. This week on How to be a Maester he got to play surgeon, attempting to cure Ser Jorah of greyscale. I like that for a man who at times considers himself to be without bravery (even after being the first to slay a White Walker in thousands of years) Sam never ceases to help the weak and do what he thinks is right. Jorah is lucky to be in his hands. Will Jorah have the fire hand that the show omitted by replacing Victarion? Probably not. Will he defend Sam and Gilly as they attempt to flee Oldtown? Maybe. Will Archmaester Ebrose tag along with Sam and head to Dany as his book equivalent Archmaester Marwyn did? A summer-child can dream.

Week-Long Daydream Material

Here’s the trailer for episode 3, entitled The Queen’s Justice.

  • Game of Thrones has a penchant for titles with more than one meaning. At the moment there are three queens in power. Cersei, Daenerys, and Sansa. How will each of them dispense justice.
  • Sansa is in the Godswood in Winterfell. What shenanigans with Littlefinger will we get to witness?
  • Jon Snowgaryen and and Daenerys meet. Will there be a betrothal? We all know Game of Thrones needs more incest.
  • Something crazy will happen. Probably in the form of Cersei and Qyburn inventing horrible ways for Tyene and possibly Ellaria to die.

7.1 Dragonstone: The Beginning of the End

Image result for dragonstone

Twenty-one years after the publication of A Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen finally set foot on Westerosi soil Sunday night. It was everything I could have hoped for. (The dragons almost as big as the castle!) Orchestral swells as the gates of Dragonstone were thrown open raised goosebumps on my arms, not because Dragonstone is the coolest castle in Westeros but because the beginning of the end is here and we’re in for one wild ride.

There’s plenty to discuss about the hour before her return. Sam spewed chunks in the greatest montage in cinematic history, Sandor called Thoros of Myr a “bald cunt”, and Cersei ruined some dude’s wet painting. So let’s say yes to Daenerys’ question and jump right in.

Cold open’s are fairly rare in Game of Thrones; the last revealed that The Hound was still alive. This time we open on Walder Frey, a “bald cunt” if there ever was one. But it’s not Walder, as I assumed for a heartbeat. No, it’s Arya using her skills from the House of Undying to murder the entire freaking House Frey! Yesssss Arya. Get that sweet, sweet vengeance for the Young Wolf and Catelyn Stark.

This does beg the question, how often will we see Arya with someone else’s face? Every time we’re shown a group of people in the Riverlands or King’s Landing from now on I’ll have to examine each for idiosyncrasies of character that could tip me off. There’s simply no way this is the last time she steals someone’s face. Constant Vigilance!

Tinfoil time: Arya will kill Cersei. She says so herself and though Ed Sheeran & Co. laughed her off I happen to believe her. In my preseason post I mentioned the valonqar aspect of Cersei’s prophecy and how Jaime has not distanced himself enough from her to warrant him killing her. I think this could be a clever work-around. Arya could take Jaime’s face and kill Cersei in the most tragic way possible. Cersei, after losing everything, will have to stare into her lover’s eyes as he strangles her.

Unfortunately, for this theory to work Jaime has to die. Not a fan of that. I’m looking forward to him rushing through the Field of Fire 2.0 later this season. I hope this theory remains crinkly tinfoil and never comes to fruition.

Following Slaughterhouse-Frey, Bran witnesses the Night King, an army of wights (please, no Hodor), and Winter march south. No matter how much I love Bran I’ve got to say he’s turning into a terrifying child. Poor Lord Commander Dolorous Edd simply asks him to prove he’s Brandon Stark and instead he launches into a depressing tirade about how death is coming for us all. Jon must have been particularly brooding before he renounced his vows because Edd lets them in.

Take note: Bran has not passed through the Wall. Just as the Night King’s mark on Bran’s arm allowed him to break the magical barriers surrounding the Three-Eyed Raven so to will it break the magic of the wall and bring it crashing down. And wouldn’t it be just Edd’s luck to be the Lord Commander when it falls.

The old Lord Commander spends the episode being honorable. I love seeing Jon as King. As Sansa says, he truly is good at it. I just hope Jon eventually takes some of Sansa’s advice. She hasn’t just suffered at the hands of the Worst of Westeros but learned from them. Her counsel will be vital. Jon can’t always sweep it under the rug as he did on the Karstark/Umber issue.

Thankfully, Jon and Sansa are both reasonable people. They didn’t pull a Hollywood, they talked about their disagreement. Someone should have told them characters aren’t supposed to talk, they’re supposed to brood and let it create conflict, opening up an opportunity for Littlefinger to come in and ruin everything. Not this time Baelish. Jon and Sansa talk and then Sansa shuts Baelish down so hard he has to run to find Maester Wolkan to poultice his burn. Oh ho, I am excited to see conniving Littlefinger’s downfall.

 

Euron was a marked improvement over last season. Some of the magic involved in building 1,000 ships on islands without forests, in record time must have infected him. His quips, extended time on screen, and promises of a gift mean he’s going to be an influence all season. During his audience with the Queen he steps toward the throne and immediately The Mountain makes his presence known. Oh yes, he’ll be involved in something big this season he seems to be telling us. Something…

But seriously, Sandor, hater of the top-knot, Clegane saw visions in the flames, and since he didn’t try to interpret them or add his own twist to it—Melisandre anyone?—they were accurate. This is a big deal. Has he been able to see visions all his life but never did only because he’s afraid of fire? Moreover, was it this ‘baptism’ by fire that gave him this ability in the first place. Intriguing questions we’ll probably never know the answer to.

I can’t wait to what role The Hound and The Brotherhood Without Banners fight alongside Jon against the White Walkers. We could have some of the most legendary figures of Westeros fighting side by side in just a few weeks. Jon, Tormund, Beric, Brienne, The Hound. Who doesn’t want to see Beric’s lightsaber, I mean Lightbringer, I mean flaming sword alongside Longclaw and Oathkeeper?

Let’s wrap up Episode 7.1 discussion with Samwell Tarly. There’s no way he remains at Oldtown all season. There are too many plots converging on him. Since he’s a moron and stole Heartsbane his brothers going to be hunting him down. Then there’s Jorah the Explorer, whom I assume wound up in the Citadel after being commanded by Daenerys to find a cure. They’re definitely going to want to leave together.

But before that happens Sam very well may get kicked out of the Citadel for breaking the rules. You would think Sam would know to take his Invisibility Cloak with him into the restricted section of the library. He’s going to be caught. I hope for his sake it’s by lovable Jim Broadbent and that before he’s caught he finds more useful information like why the dagger used in Bran’s assassination attempt was in the book he pilfered. If not that I’ll settle for him learning how to work a Glass Candle or a number of other things. The Citadel is rife with potential. I hope the showrunners don’t squander it.

 

We have five days before we return Lyanna Mormont and Archmaester Ebrose. Here’s what we have to look forward to:

“A Targaryen cannot be trusted.” God dammit, Bronze Yohn you can’t trust anyone. Luckily, Jon will have some interesting news for you after meeting with Littlefinger in the Crypts of Winterfell.

NYMERIA!!! The reunion we’ve all been waiting for is coming. A direwolf is back. Wait… where’s Ghost? With a massive budget for CGI Nymeria better be huge and around all the time.

Best of luck thinking about anything else this week. If you’re like me and can never get enough I recommend the Youtube channels Ozzyman Reviews and AltShiftX for great reviews of each episode.

 Game of Thrones: Pre-Season Hypestravaganza

If you’re like me you have a problem, an addiction that on the streets goes by the name ASOIAF. Luckily, it’s the greatest time of the year! Game of Thrones returns in 12 hours for seven weeks. To celebrate I’ll be trying something new here on Mediocre Penguin. We’ll talk about the specifics in a minute. Let’s jump right into the hypestravaganza.

Warning: Spoilers lie ahead. SPOILERS. Seriously, don’t be dumb and ruin it for yourself.

If you somehow haven’t seen it here’s the trailer.

We’ve only got thirteen episodes left in the series and we’re far, far past the realm of the books which means I’m as lost as anyone. That feeling is simultaneously exciting, confusing, and terrifying. How have show-only-folks heart’s not exploded from anxiety over the last six years? There’s so much I want to know. Will Benioff & Weiss finally nix Dorne? I pray every night. Will Bran be totally awesome? Damn straight.

Please, please Bran, do some cool shit. You’re my favorite. Don’t let me down.

Anyway. Here’s my, by no means exhaustive, questions and speculations for the next seven episodes broken down by character/location.

 Kit Harington as Jon Snow -  Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Fookin’ Jon Snow

Jon Snow

-As the newly appointed King in the North (so great) he’s got a lot of new responsibility. To the north there’s the White Walkers and their wight army. To the south he has the likes of Cersei, the Freys, and Daenerys. I’m going to predict that Jon ventures north of the Wall as we see in the trailer and gets defeated. Then, in some fashion he will meet with Daenerys to convince her of the true threat to humanity. This meeting will likely occur in the last bit of the season, setting up the main conflict of season eight.

-Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon’s parents. The only questions are: is he still a bastard, if not then will it matter, and how will it be revealed. I hope Bran gets to be vehicle of revelation.

-Jon Snow will not die. As Rhaegar says in the House of the Undying “his is the song of ice and fire.”

Arya Stark

I don’t want it to be so, but I fear it is. Arya will die. Not easily, and not before killing some more but there’s just no way she survives until the end of the series. Not even the fact that Arya is George R. R. Martin’s wife’s favorite character can save her. (If you’re not so sure take a minute to reread the chapter in A Game of Thrones where Jon gives Arya Needle.) Before she dies will she at least get to reunite with Nymeria? Will Jon tousle Arya’s hair one more time? Arya, you stress me out.

Bran Stark

Will Bran be awesome? Will Bran warg a dragon? (OH MY GOD PLEASE!) I have no predictions for Bran, only questions and questions and questions.

Sansa Stark

-Tinfoil time. I’ve thought Sansa will be Queen for several years now and for a long time that meant Queen of the North. Last week I wondered, what if Daenerys fails or sacrifices herself to defeat the White Walkers? Sansa Stark and Jon Targaryen are then somehow left to rule. Ice and Fire. That sounds like a big stretch and too cheesy for Martin but I’m going to throw it out there in case I’m right. We’ll know in two years.

-Will there be a Stark reunion this season? If not, there better not be five near misses. That drives me crazy.

 

Cersei Lannister

Everyone knows Cersei is a dead-woman walking. What crazy things will she do before her death? I have zero substantial ideas but I think she’ll be on the defensive for most of the season.

Jaime Lannister

One of the shows unforgivable sins is the way it handles Jaime’s character. His redemption arc from A Storm of Swords on is masterful. His burning of Cersei’s letter begging for help in A Feast for Crows is one of the greatest “Hell yeah!” moments of the series. The show-runners cannot deny these changes forever. Eventually, Jaime will spurn Cersei when he realizes the monster she has become. He will fulfill the prophecy of Maggy the Frog (he is the valonqar) and strangle her when she tries to do something truly terrible.

 

Tyrion Lannister

-From the trailer it appears Tyrion takes back Casterly Rock using knowledge from when he was placed in charge of its sewer system by Tywin. Sound strange? Trust me. This is exactly how the Unsullied will get into the impregnable Casterly Rock.

-As far as a larger role, I think he will cement his legacy as a diplomat. He will help to ease the tensions between Jon and Daenerys. He will be the Hand the knits the realm together.

Samwell Tarly

Why in the hell did Sam steal his father’s Valyrian steel blade? It makes zero damn sense. Will it give him an epiphany at the last moment while studying at the Citadel that Valyrian steel is crucial to defeating the White Walkers. Probably. Even though we learned that in Season 5 Episode 8 in one of the greatest moments of the show.

King’s Landing

I suspect we haven’t seen the last explosion to rock King’s Landing. In an early season we’re shown a vision of the throne room. At first glance it appears to be snow. But what if it’s ash? We know that there was wildfire under the whole of King’s Landing, not just under the Sept of Baelor. What if one of Dany’s dragons accidentally set if off during the invasion? What if Cersei tries to set it off in one last act of desperation and Jaime has to step in just like he did years earlier with the Mad King?

The Wall

Will the Wall fall? I think so. Imagine this. The final scene of the season. The wall comes crashing down. We see a close-up of the Night’s King, then the camera pulls back and shows his army. Boom. He’s coming to mess some stuff up in season 8.

Clegane-bowl

No questions. It will happen.


 

So that’s the hypestravaganza. Enjoy the beginning of the end tomorrow. Check back every Tuesday morning for some unoriginal thoughts and reactions.

All aboard the hype-train.